There are benefits to pleasant moments of solitude, such as enjoying a good book or sitting in the sunshine. But isolation in seniors—feeling left out or forgotten—can be damaging to their physical, emotional, and mental health. That’s why staying connected and engaged with others is essential for healthy aging.
Isolation in seniors is a national crisis
The negative effects of isolation are so destructive that US Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy issued an official advisory in 2023 stating that loneliness has become an epidemic. Said Murthy, “In recent years, about one-in-two adults in America reported experiencing loneliness. And that was before the COVID-19 pandemic cut off so many of us from friends, loved ones, and support systems.”
Social connection is as essential to humanity as food, water, or shelter, according to Murthy. “Humans have historically needed to rely on each other for survival, and modern people remain wired for that connection and for proximity to others.”
In his advisory, Dr. Murthy emphasized the greatest dangers come from extended periods of feeling lonely. Prolonged isolation in seniors can lead to an almost 30% increase in the risk of premature death through health conditions including diabetes, heart attacks, insomnia and dementia.
In addition, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that loneliness:
- Is linked to sleep problems, inflammation and immune changes
- Is tied to symptoms such as pain, insomnia, depression, anxiety and shorter life span
- Is linked to higher risks of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, addiction, suicidality and self-harm, and dementia
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Understanding loneliness and isolation in seniors
Every person is different, so It’s important to determine why an older loved one is spending so much time alone. For example, a senior may be declining opportunities to socialize or leave the house due to:
- Loss of a spouse or long-time friends with whom to socialize
- Fear of leaving the house, including walking or going somewhere alone
- Worries over getting lost or confused; memory issues
- Anxieties over loss of vision or hearing, declining mobility
- Apprehension about driving or seeking public transportation
- Fewer reasons to go places; feeling out of the mainstream
Your parent or older loved one might be mostly solitary, but still have enough regular meaningful contact with others to remain healthy. Or, they could feel cut off from others and thus be at risk for health issues. Even if they are constantly surrounded by others, they are vulnerable if they feel lonely and disconnected.
To find out how your loved one is feeling, talk to them about how they spend their day and whether they feel left out or alone. Also consider scheduling an appointment with their physician to rule out any health issues.
Socialization can be the answer—and the right lifestyle makes it easy
Here are just some of the ways healthy socialization counteracts the dangers of isolation in seniors:
- Helps support brain health and delay the onset of dementia
- Lowers stress and anxiety levels
- Encourages participation in healthy activities, such as exercise classes, walking groups, hobbies
- Makes it easier to develop healthy habits by being around others with similar goals
- Instills a sense of purpose and belonging
- Increases energy levels and lift mood
- Helps stave off disease, pain, and premature death
A vibrant assisted living community setting offers countless opportunities for healthy socialization, through stimulating activities, events, group dining, family gatherings and just plain fun with friends. Residents can enjoy their privacy and moments of solitude knowing that right outside the door of their apartment, they will find friendly faces, lively conversation, and a true feeling of community.
At The Herrick House, residents feel connected, at home, and happy
In our assisted living community in Beverly, Massachusetts, we understand our residents’ desire to remain close to family and friends, to the neighborhoods where they lived and worked, to the things that are most familiar.
We offer the advantage of a community that is smaller by design, so making friends and socializing is easy and comfortable. No matter how your loved one chooses to spend their day, they are always in the company of friends, peers, and caring staff.
Our ambiance is warm, inviting and comfortable. You’ll feel it from the moment you walk through your doors: it’s easy to feel right at home here at The Herrick House!